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SPS - Conservatism and Liberalism

Tuesday 29 November 2016, 4.00PM to 17:30pm

Speaker(s): Professor Andy Hamilton, Durham University

Talk synopsis

The received view of philosophical conservatism – leading exponent Burke – regards it as an "approach to human affairs which mistrusts both a priori reasoning and revolution, preferring to put its trust in experience and in the gradual improvement of tried and tested arrangements". It treats revolutionary Jacobinism as conservatism's polar opposite and historic contender; conservatives reject its political rationalism, which attempts to reconstruct society from abstract principles or general blueprint, without reference to tradition.  Thus far the received view is correct.  However, in the work of Oakeshott, MacIntyre, the received work makes the unwarranted assumption that political rationalism is also integral to liberalism and social democracy – an assumption resting on Max Weber's widely influential view of the Enlightenment rejection of tradition.  This paper argues that liberalism and Burkean conservatism lie on a continuum, and that they are analogous in having rationalist and pragmatic forms, the latter represented by Mill.  A synthesis of liberal, socialist and conservative values is possible. 

Professor Andy Hamilton

Andy Hamilton teaches Philosophy at Durham University, specialising in aesthetics, philosophy of mind, political philosophy and history of 19th and 20th century philosophy, especially Wittgenstein.  His monographs are Aesthetics and Music (Continuum, 2007), The Self in Question: Memory, the Body and Self-Consciousness (Palgrave, 2013), and Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Wittgenstein and On Certainty (2014).  He also teaches aesthetics and history of jazz at Durham, and published Lee Konitz: Conversations on the Improviser's Art (University of Michigan Press, 2007).



Admission: is by free ticket only. Please book your ticket at

Location: ARC/014 Auditorium, Alcuin Research Resource Centre, University of York, YO10 5DD